How to Decrease Arthritic Symptoms

One in four people suffer from arthritis. Arthritis causes stiffness, pain, deformity and decrease function of your joints. Physical therapy can help to decrease pain and restore mobility with the use of exercises and modalities.

Harbor Physical Therapy provides patients with arthritis instruction in exercises to help increase flexibility and improve muscle strength around the joint. A daily home exercise program will help to prevent loss of the use of your joints and preserve muscle strength.

If you are interested in learning more about how physical therapy can help with your arthritic symptoms, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

The Upper Trapezius and its Role in Neck Pain

If you find yourself suffering from neck and shoulder pain, it may be coming from one muscle in particular: the upper trapezius. The upper trapezius makes up one of three parts of the large trapezius muscle in the upper back and neck and runs from the base of the head to the clavicle. The upper trap works with the middle and lower trap to stabilize the scapula and assists in upward rotation of the scapula and shrugging of the shoulder.

Increased stress, poor posture, and weakness in the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers can contribute to overcompensation from the upper traps. This can lead to increased tightness, neck/shoulder pain, and trigger point formation in the muscle. If pain and muscle tightness persists, it can affect daily activities such as sleeping, sitting, reaching, head turning and can also contribute to headaches.

If you suffer from this, here are some quick tips to help relieve pain:

1. Stretch the upper trap by placing one arm behind your back on the same side as your neck pain. Then, gently pull your ear to your shoulder with your other hand until a stretch is felt. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times and perform throughout the day as needed.

2. Work on your posture. Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down towards each other and hold for 5-10 seconds while keeping your head in an upward position. Repeat multiple times throughout the day.

If your pain persists, the physical therapists at Harbor Physical Therapy can help by using a combination of manual therapy, strengthening and stretching exercises to decrease muscular tension and pain.

Written by:
Dr. David Reymann
Staff Physical Therapist
Harbor Physical Therapy

How to Continue Exercising in the Winter

Winter weather is upon us! Even though temperatures are dropping, there are many options to continue exercising safely.

If you spent the warmer months exercising outdoors, but continued making monthly membership ‘donations’ to your local fitness center, use this winter to redeem your money’s worth of classes and workouts! Gyms offer plenty of indoor cardio, conditioning, and strengthening exercise options. Most gyms also offer fitness classes if you like the group setting. If a gym membership is not your thing, there are also many exercise options online, TV on Demand, or on DVD.

If you still plan to battle the elements and exercise outdoors through the winter months, be sure to make use of warm, protective clothing. Proper footwear, warm socks, hats, gloves, and layers are all important!

Also, remember winter brings shorter hours of daylight so use reflective gear whenever necessary! Always remember safety first and consider alternatives to outdoor exercise when icy or extra cold outside!

5 Reasons to Start Swimming to Benefit Your Health

Going for a swim in the summer can keep you cool when out in the sun. It can also benefit your health in several ways. Here are 5 reasons to hit the pool this summer:

  1. It offers a full-body resistance workout. In order to swim effectively, your body must incorporate the use of the muscles in your hands all the way down to your feet. The water offers resistance against the body that will help to keep your muscles strong.
  2. It promotes cardiovascular and lung health. Swimming laps in the pool can improve your heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. It can also improve lung capacity and efficiency.
  3. It reduces stress on the body and joints. Water provides buoyancy that lessens the impact of your body weight when swimming, providing a lower impact form of exercise than land based exercises such as running.
  4. It can decrease pain. Water can have a soothing effect on aching muscles and joints. It also promotes increased joint range of motion and body movement that may be difficult to perform on land if you have chronic pain.
  5. It is good for all ages and fitness levels. Whether you are young or old, in shape or out of shape, swimming is a fun way to help you achieve your fitness goals and keep you healthy.

Written by: Dr. David Reymann

Cervicogenic Headache Vs. Migraine Headache

Cervicogenic Headaches stem from structures inside the neck and can radiate to the neck, back, front of the shoulders, scapula, down the arm, and chest.  Migraine headaches are a disorder of the central nervous system involving nerves and blood vessels. Migraine headaches are throbbing recurring headaches that are typically found on one side of your head.

Cervicogenic Headache

Symptoms:

These patients may report an increase in headache frequency and intensity, decreased ability to turn their head, increased pain with prolonged sitting postures, neck pain, muscle tightness and tenderness, arm and shoulder pain, weakness, dizziness, nausea and light headedness.

 Causes:

Joint stiffness in the neck, muscle and tissue tightness, multiple trigger points, or nerve irritation may lead to cervicogenic headaches.

Treatment:

Physical Therapy provides soft tissue massage, trigger point release, dry needling, stretching, modalities, joint mobilizations, strengthening postural muscles, and addressing proper body mechanics to decrease headache intensity and frequency.

Migraine Headache

Symptoms:

Migraines can have an aura or no aura.  An aura is a visual disturbance that informs you of a migraine onset.  Common auras are losing vision, seeing zig zags, light sensitivity, or flashing light colors.  A migraine headache causes increased pain and throbbing on one side of your head.

Causes: 

There are many causes to migraine headaches.  Some examples are loud noises, bright lights, food, weather changes, lack of sleep, menstruation, and smoking.

Treatment:

Determining the trigger for your migraine headache and working towards preventing it from happening.  Physical Therapy provides modalities, massage, stretching, and traction to help diminish symptoms and decrease frequency and severity.  Physical Therapy will teach you how to perform self massage and self traction to help diminish your symptoms.  In severe cases where migraines are daily or several times a week, medication is prescribed.

How to Exercise Safely in Hot Weather

As the hot summer months approach, it is important to be aware of hot weather safety while staying active outdoors. Listed below are some precautions you should take before exercising outdoors this summer.

 

Stay Hydrated – The increased summer temperatures will lead to increased fluid loss through sweating. It is important to drink water throughout the day and increase fluid intake when exercising to replenish the body’s supply.

Dress Appropriately – Wear light-weight, light colored clothing to reflect heat and aide in the evaporation of sweat. Avoid dark-colored clothing that absorbs light and heat.

Take Your Time – Initially, decrease the intensity of your workout to avoid overexertion. As your body adjusts to the heat with more frequent workouts, gradually increase the length and intensity of your exercise routine.

 Watch the Temperature and Time of Day – Exercise in the morning or evening, when the temperature is cooler. If there is a heat advisory or the temperature feels too hot to exercise comfortably, consider taking your workout routine indoors.

Know Your Medical History – Certain medical conditions or medications may place you at an increased risk for an adverse event when too much stress is placed on the body. Consult with your health care providers to ensure that you are performing the appropriate types of exercises under the right conditions.

Listen to Your Body – If any of the following symptoms occur while out in the heat, it is important to seek immediate medical attention: confusion, irritability, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, visual impairment, headaches, or muscle cramping.

Swimming Injuries and Prevention

Swimming is a form of exercises which is non-weight bearing, low impact, and causes low stress on joints.  Injuries associated with swimming are usually not caused by trauma or impact, and commonly stem from overuse and repetition.  Swimming injuries most commonly occur in the shoulder joints but can also affect the knees, hips and low back.  Overuse can lead to fatigue and improper stroke and kicking mechanics.  Listed below are some examples of common swimming injuries associated with swimming:

  • Shoulder injuries result from muscle fatigue with repetitive motions and weakness of the rotator muscles.
  • Knee injuries results from repetition from breast stroke kick and irritation of the ligaments and tendons which allow bending and straightening.
  • Back injuries are common with too much back extension while swimming on your stomach.

Injury Prevention techniques:

  • Use good form and technique.
  • Lessen repetition.
  • Cross training.
  • Core, hip, and rotator cuff strengthening.
  • Rest when experiencing fatigue, pain or soreness to allow the muscles time to recover.

How Do I Lift Something Heavy Without Hurting My Back?

A lot of people end up having back pain from lifting heavy objects.  Most likely if they thought before they lifted the object, they would avoid causing themselves back pain. Listed below are steps to follow when lifting a heavy object to avoid straining your lower back muscles:

  1. Square your body to the object so it is right in front of you.
  2. Make sure the object is close to your body.
  3. Place your legs shoulder distance apart.
  4. Hinge forward slightly at the waist
  5. Squat down making sure your center of gravity is towards your heels not your toes.
  6. Pick up the object.
  7. If you need to place the object in a certain location, make sure to move your feet not twist your back.

If you continue to have back pain while lifting objects from the floor, call Harbor Physical Therapy to have one of our doctorate level physical therapists evaluate you to determine the source of the issue.

 

 

Ideal Sleeping Position

Certain sleep positions can cause more stress and strain on your muscles, joints and ligaments than others.

 Ideal Sleeping positions:

  1. Lying on your back with a bent knee position supported by pillows.
  2. Lying on your side with your arms folded resting in front of your body and a pillow between your knees.

Not ideal Sleeping position:

  1. Lying on your stomach this causes increase neck strain and increase back strain due to the pillows under your head.

Listed below are common patient questions about sleeping:

How many pillows should I sleep with? 

Typically one pillow is best.  When lying on a pillow, you want your spine to be level.  You can gauge this by looking at your head position in comparison to your body.  You want your neck to be in line with your body position at a zero degree angle.

Where should I put my arms when I sleep? 

Ideally you want your arms in front of your body to avoid strain on your shoulder.  Never have your arms above your head.  This can compress the nerves that innervate your arm leading to numbness and or shoulder impingement.

If you continue to wake up in the morning with pain, it is most likely due to your sleeping habits.  Call Harbor Physical Therapy and make an appointment with one of our doctorate level physical therapists to learn how to decrease your pain by changing your sleeping position.